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The Duration of Prophecy: How Long Will Prophecy Be Used in the Church? (Part 1) by Wayne A. Grudem

Part 1 of Professor Grudem’s exegetical study of 1 Corinthians 13. The Duration of Prophecy: How Long Will Prophecy Be Used in the Church?

“The Duration of Prophecy” is Chapter 12 from The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today by Wayne A. Grudem.


Many people reading this study have never seen the gift of prophecy functioning in their local church. In fact, outside of the charismatic movement and certain traditionally Pentecostal denominations, this gift is not now used and has not been used in recent history—for many churches, it has not been used in the history of their denominations.

Why not?

Is the non-use of this gift part of God’s plan for the church? Was this gift only to be used during the New Testament time, then to fade away? Or is this gift still valid for use today, still valuable for the church—and perhaps even necessary if the church is to function the way God intends it to function?

This is the question of the duration of prophecy. Can we solve this question by examining the New Testament? In the New Testament itself, are there indications of how long God expected prophecy to function in the church?

On the one side of this question are charismatic and Pentecostal Christians who continue to use this gift, and who say it is valid for the entire church age.

On the other side are some Reformed and dispensational Christians who say that prophecy was one of the special gifts associated with the foundation of the church at the time of the apostles, and that it was expected to cease functioning at a very early date, either around the time of the deaths of the last apostles or at the time that the writing of the books of New Testament Scripture was complete. Their view is commonly called the cessationist view.

Probably in the middle are most contemporary evangelicals—neither charismatics nor cessationists but still undecided about this question, and wondering if it can be decided clearly.

Charismatic and Pentecostal Christians continue to use the gift of prophecy and say it is valid for the entire church age.

The discussion of this question turns on two main points: (1) the meaning of 1 Corinthians 13:8-13, and (2) the theological question of the relationship between the gift of prophecy and the written Scriptures of the New Testament. We shall examine these two points in order.

The Interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:8-13

This passage is important to the discussion because in it Paul mentions the gift of prophecy as something that is “imperfect,” and then says that what is “imperfect” will “pass away” (1 Cor. 13:10). He even says when this will happen. It will happen “when the perfect comes.” But when is that? And even if we can determine when that is, does that mean Paul had in mind something that would answer this “cessation” question for the church today?

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Category: Spirit, Spring 2001

About the Author: Wayne A. Grudem is Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary, Phoenix, Arizona. He has authored over twenty books, including Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (1994), Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture (2010), The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution (2013), The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, and "Free Grace" Theology: 5 Ways It Diminishes the Gospel (2016). He was also the General Editor for the ESV Study Bible (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Book of the Year, 2009).

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